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Editorial | Immunization program

In yesterday’s I-Speak media forum, Dr. Janis Olavides, DOH XI national immunization program manager, is optimistic more parents will bring their children for immunization in August when the immunization program will be launched.

The Dengvaxia scare, and controversy, is seen by the health department as the cause of the increase in the number of children diagnosed with measles last year. It said the department’s vaccination program slid to 40% from the previous years’ average of 70% in 2018, as parents refused to immunize their children. The government recalled the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in December 2017 after it was said to cause severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease.

During the forum, Olavides said that in the first semester of 2019, DOH XI has already recorded 1,069 cases of measles all over the region and that 65% of this has no history of vaccination. A budget of P5 million for the program is allocated for the region to meet the immunization targets of the health department.

This situation is a microcosm of what is happening worldwide. According to a report from the Agence France Presse, almost 20 million children “missed out on potentially life-saving vaccinations last year, the UN said Monday, as surging measles cases highlighted “dangerous” gaps in efforts to shield kids from preventable illness.”

“Some 350,000 measles cases were reported globally last year — more than double the 2017 number, a “real-time indicator” of the quest to expand vaccine coverage, UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

“In April, the WHO said 2019 was set to be worse, with preliminary data showing reported measles cases in the first quarter 300 times higher than the same period in 2018.”

In the same report, WHO’s vaccines department director Kate O’Brien, told reporters in Geneva the UN was “concerned about the proliferation of misinformation online” but that access to vaccines especially in poor countries remain the biggest hurdle.

Making parents aware of the importance of vaccines and having their children immunized from childhood diseases should be addressed not only by the DoH but by the DepEd, as well. And priority should go to families living in remote areas of the region.

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